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Dec 17, 2017
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  Football Preview: Defensive Line

New defensive coordinator Kevin Steele doesnít have an easy task ahead of him with Auburn, but if the Tigers' defensive line doesnít have Steele eager to get to work then nothing will.

The defensive trench hasnít been a strength recently, but 2016 should be an exception. For starters, Carl Lawson and Montravius Adams are back for their senior seasons.

Lawson has suffered more injuries than any college player deserves, and some expected the defensive end to cut his losses after last season and enter the NFL Draft. Lawson, on the other hand, said heís coming back and was welcomed with open arms.

In 2015, Lawson played in only seven games but finished the season with 17 tackles, including three for a loss and a sack. Even after missing several games early in the year, Lawsonís tackles for loss led the team until nearly the midway point. Itís a testament to his impact, but itís also a sign of the ineffectiveness of the defensive line in 2015.

Adams led all defensive linemen last year with 44 tackles. He had three tackles for a loss and 2 Ĺ sacks. The big-bodied tackle has seen playing time since he was a freshman and is expected to be a leader on and off the field this fall.

Lawson and Adams are expected to be joined on the starting line with Byron Cowart, who had a less-than- expected freshman year in 2015, and Dontavious Russell, who had 42 tackles and 4 Ĺ sacks last year.

The starting group is solid, but in the SEC it takes a good second team to be effective. Auburn has options for subs, including seniors Devaroe Lawrence and Maurice Swain, sophomore Jeff Holland and freshman Marlon Davidson.

Lawrence, Swain and Holland showed signs of potential in 2015, but none had breakaway performances that really stood out. Lawrence did finish the season with 31 tackles, but his 2 tackles for a loss need improvement. Hollandís 13 tackles came with 2 Ĺ tackles for loss and a sack, but heíll need those numbers much higher this fall with more playing time.

For Davidson, who enrolled in January, he has just as good of a shot to see the field this fall as anyone. The 4-star recruit from Montgomery stands at an impressive 6-foot- 4, 260 pounds and is known punishing the backfield during his high school days at Greenville and Carver.

The defensive line has a chance this fall to play an even bigger role than in the past. Auburn had a good rush defense in 2015, but its inability to create a pass rush allowed the secondary to become exposed, causing teams to average 222.5 yards per game. If the Tigers can continue a solid rush defense and also create a pass defense then the 2016 defense could be fun to watch.

Brandon Miller

Coming August 8: Linebackers

Newcomers

Quarterbacks and Receivers

Running Backs and Offensive Line

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